Reproducing 1967: Robyn Hitchcock at The Birchmere

March 28th, 2011 by Alex Fili


 

Robyn Hitchcock sings the songs of Joe Boyd

Direct From 1967 weaves the talents of Producer Joe Boyd with guitarist Robyn Hitchcock in the performance of musical selections produced by Boyd during his prolific career. This daring duo showcased choice compositions at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

Joe Boyd’s unique book reading tour for his 2007 paperback White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s invited British guitarist Robyn Hitchcock to accompany him with an acoustic guitar to play memorable songs that Boyd had a hand in creating. Sharing in-depth memories recalling pivotal events from the happening 1960s, Boyd read excerpts from his memoir and went off on a few tangents for good measure.

Hitchcock opened the evening with a greeting and launching into “Way Back In The 1960s”. The program order was an interesting mix as Hitchcock and Boyd traded off on time at the microphone between one another. Boyd would tell a tale and Hitchcock would add musical flavor to the story behind the music.

Boyd reminisced about his participation at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that was rocked by Bob Dylan going electric on stage. He talked about the infamous Redlands Bust in February 1967. Boyd moved from the Swinging London scene to Amsterdam and then detoured to enjoy the ambiance of Yarrow, a small village before continuing onto Edinburgh. He even interjected a plug for Keith Richards’ autobiography Life.

Boyd’s colorful stories and personal vignettes about working with The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake and Pink Floyd were illustrated with intimate details behind the production of the classic tunes incorporated into their dual presentation. His firsthand perspective as an active participant in producing acclaimed music from the 1960s provided the audience with an invaluable description of his charmed life experiences.

Hitchcock infused his own style and an intensity on the acoustic guitar with the material chosen by Boyd to showcase examples of his exemplary studio production on popular recordings from his praised past as successful record producer. Hitchcock proved to be an ideal musician to revive these melodic vibrations before a receptive audience.

Boyd stated his fondest studio production experience was working with The Incredible String Band. He had desperately wanted to produce a Birmingham band The Move, but was unable to orchestrate that opportunity to fruition. He described the hyper-ambitious British music scene during the 1960s as being a tumultuous landscape fraught with multiple obstacles to maneuver for successful survival in the industry.

Boyd mentioned his regret in misplacing a Syd Barrett demo cassette of lost recordings. He said he did try to search for the missing material, but never found it. The final reading from Boyd was his spoken tribute in memory of the late Syd Barrett that he delivered at the charity concert.

Hitchcock took command with his acoustic guitar on only eight songs in total, but his interpretations of other’s work had magnificent moments. Portions of Boyd’s banter stretched on when Robyn could have sung another song or two had there been a few more pauses in the stories. The climax of the concert was closing with a stellar rendition of “Arnold Layne”.

Boyd and Hitchcock had an uncommon stage repartee interacting together that was both humorous and engaging to witness. Robyn’s immediate quips were quirky and entertaining. Boyd’s paperback is certainly an excellent read. Having a chance to hear about several of the artists and the subsequent music he helped to record for posterity in the studio was most fascinating.

Boyd and Hitchcock first worked as a team in May 2007, at a tribute concert in London celebrating the artistry and musical contribution of Syd Barrett, the original leader of Pink Floyd. The Pink Floyd had been the house band for a London venue that Boyd managed called the UFO Club during the height of the Flower Power era in 1967.

The Birchmere March 9, 2011 Setlist: Way Back In The 1960s (Incredible String Band) * It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (Bob Dylan) * My White Bicycle (Tomorrow) * Chinese White (Incredible String Band) * I Can Hear The Grass Grow (The Move) * Raynardine (Fairport Convention) * River Man (Nick Drake) * Arnold Layne (Pink Floyd)




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